They were in neatly packed boxes, accompanied by a neatly hand-written note penned on an obnoxiously generic piece of stationary; a blue border with a small sail boat in the bottom left corner:
Having appealed to you numerous times, we felt it was our duty to remove your decor, which the residents of this neighborhood unanimously agree is both unappealing and unsightly. You will see it has not been damaged in any way, shape, or form and we would appreciate if you would refrain from resurrecting these infamous adornments any time in the near future.
Best wishes and happy summer,
The bastards had come in the night while she sat at her desk at the Delridge 24-hour animal hospital, waiting for the phones to ring. What did they think a 68 year old woman such as herself could do with a yard full of plastic santas and snowmen, bushes and a roof all covered in lights, and not a soul to help. The house was only a one story ranch, but she felt that if by chance she plummeted from the roof while removing the lights she would be injured or killed and unable to tend to her three cats; a British short hair named Bingo, a Nebelung named Boo Boo, and a Tabby named Cookie Boy which she had found by the dumpster at work. Though the note was signed, “Your Neighbors”, she knew who the culprit was. The hand writing was neat, practiced, and overly disciplined. It could have been done by no other than Simon Rissend. The “King of the Bastards” as she often referred to him in her nightly conversations with Cookie Boy.
In 1993 Diane Melmont was an accountant at the law office of Buffano & Funkle. She found herself becoming well off and purchased herself a small two bedroom ranch which her and her boyfriend Bradley lived in. After a few years she developed a debilitating anxiety disorder triggered by the sight of law books and/or the tuna salad sandwiches which Mr.Buffano would leave lying around the office. In 1999 she was let go She filed for disability, then isolated herself in her house with her cats. She gained nearly a hundred pounds that year, largely fueled by the consumption of mallomars and Surge. Bradley left her. The neighborhood began to change as many of the neighbors she was somewhat friendly with moved away. The one story ranches were soon being replaced by homogeneous vinyl sided mini mansions. She remained the sole hold out, apart from Mr. Von Zifkin who they recently found dead, drifting in his swimming pool on a large pineapple shaped raft, at the ripe old age of 107. His home too would soon be bought, bulldozed, and built upon.
Simon Rissend was the anally retentive self appointed neighborhood caretaker. Even among his fellow upper crusters, he was regarded as a pain in the ass. He lived diagonally across the street and to the left of Diane’s house with his perfection of a family. A father, a mother, a daughter, a son. blond hair, blue eyes, all with the entitlement a conquistador. Almost every other day as she’d go to collect the mail, he’d dart out his front door, dressed in a multi-colored track suit feigning exercise and affability toward her. “Good thing that snowman is plastic or he’d melt, what do you say about packing it in?” or “Me and Davey will help you, come on, let’s pack it in” or “ Let’s pack it in already, this is getting absurd. 6 months it’s been since christmas! Time to pack it in now!”. His approach only bolstered her resistance against him, he was an intruder on her block and she’d be damned to let him tell her how and when to “pack it in”.
Two weeks later she was woken by Mr.Rissend’s whip-cracking as he ushered his family into the Winnebago. “We’re 15 minutes behind schedule because of you!” he yelled at his wife and children at 6:15 in the morning. The moment the gargantuan vehicle left the freshly sealed driveway was the very moment that the plan entered her head. Fully drawn out in her mind’s eye as if it had thought about and reserved for centuries, placed there by the gods of revenge just for her.
She was out the door and into the car faster then she’d ever been in her life. She didn’t look in the mirror, she didn’t put on make up, she didn’t eat breakfast. She was in her bunny rabbit pajama pants, a XXXL t-shirt she got in Myrtle Beach, slippers, and a lavender bathrobe. Pulling up to the 7-11 she drove past the group of ten or so Mexican men standing at the edge of the parking lot. They were unsuspecting of her. in her small sedan. The man she approached was named Eduardo, she gave him a hundred dollar bill and offered him twice as much upon completion. She wanted good revenge and she was willing to pay for it. They would rendezvous at the same spot 10pm that night, Eduardo would bring a friend. She went into the store, bought a bear claw, a cheese filled hot dog, and some 2 dollar lottery tickets. She won back a dollar. The next stop was the hardware store.
At 10am the owners, or for that matter the whole family, at Rundstrom’s Hardware and Aquarium was out to lunch. The sign said they’d be back in 15 but it was more like an hour when they finally returned. She bought herself the entire stock of crazy glue -some 30 or so tubes-, and a 22 foot ladder which Mr. Rundstrom’s conjoined twin sons, Ahron and Alvin haphazardly tied to the roof of her car. She bought two bags of cement and threw them in the trunk among her bags of recyclables and beach chairs which hadn’t seen a lick of sand in 4 years. She assumed they carried just one wallet and gave them a single ten dollar bill as a tip. She was wrong and they had to break the bill in the register where they were standing when she walked back in, having forgot to buy shovels, a mixing tub and a trowel for the cement.
It was early in the day so she went home, unpacked her christmas decorations fed her cats, and read aloud to them from a grocery store romance novel she was halfway through titled; Midnight Rider. The felines couldn’t understand Englsh and were indifferent to the plot of the story, they did however enjoy the sound of her voice and knew that this was the time when she would pet them. She took their affection as a sing of their appreciation for the story.
She rolled up to the 7-11 early so she could buy two cheese injected hot dogs, a very large cherry coke, and two 5 dollar lottery ticket which she didn’t win a dime on. She sat in her car with the parking lights on. Eduardo came walking down the sidewalk by himself. Rolling down the window, she beckoned him over.
“Where are your friends?” she asked as if he had broken their deal.
“No quieren trabajar”.
She let out a sigh and motioned him into the car. He was a little nervous, slightly suspicious, but he needed the money so he climbed in.
Tensions wavered as they drove, with what little Spanish she had picked up from working at the animal clinic and what little English he had picked up working as a landscaper, they made conversation. She learned that he had come from Ojocaliente where he used to work for a hat maker. He learned that she had three cats and spent nearly 95% of her time with them. With 25 hundred miles behind him and now three hundred bucks in his pocket, he was no longer a milliner, he was a christmas decoration installation specialist and it was July. He began to ask if what they were doing was Ok. She said it was and shoved another hundred at him, no longer caring how much she’d have to give in exacting her revenge. She told him he’d have to work fast because he didn’t find any help.
Work fast he did but it was now 5 am and the sun was beginning to spread its first muted rays across the sky. Eduardo had worked feverishly through the night, digging shallow holes to place plastic santa clauses and snowmen, wicker reindeer and candy canes before setting them with cement. They glued stick-on snowflakes and happy little elves all over the large foyer window. Wreathes and garland were permanently adhered to the door and around the sidelights. Not a feature of the 2 million dollar home remained unscathed. Then came time for the final plan, birds were beginning to sing. “Now isn’t the time to get sloppy” she nervously affirmed to Eduardo as she handed him a few tubes of glue. The yuletide escalade initiated. He ascended the towering aluminum gradation and began to glue the christmas lights down to the side of the gutter at full tilt. Eduardo work quickly and without falter. Moving along the edge of the roof like a balletic feline.
She readied herself with a tube of glue, ready to first glue the plugs together and then glue them into the socket. Something was wrong. Eduardo stopped pulling on the string of lights and there was silent on the roof.
“What’s going on?”
He appeared over the edge of the roof. “I need the glue. Mas pegamento.”
“Shit… I’m coming up” she began to clamber up the ladder.
Reaching the top, she caught her breath and handed the glue to Eduardo. “rapido, rapido!” she spurred him then began descending down the ladder. Her foot missed a rung and she feel sixteen feet to the ground. She hit like a sack of bowling balls. There was a dull crack in her thud and she’d gone out for a second. When she came to she yelled “I’m ok! Gotta- Just keep on going!”. She tried to lift herself but the pain in her right leg shot through her, laying her back down. Meanwhile Eduardo had come to the edge of the roof, he had begun to panic and was cursing to himself in Spanish. He quickly climbed down the ladder and fled off into the pale blue dawn.
Diane lay on the ground, staring up at the sky, a soft light blue with no clouds to interfere. It didn’t hurt so much now but she could feel the blood rushing to her hip. She lay there for 20 minutes coming out of her daze. The pain had begun to set in. Near the ladder the plugs dangled awaiting their insertion into the beckoning portal of alternating current. The pain was great as she dragged herself over to electrical outlet, grasping a tube of glue. She covered the fifteen feet in no less than 12 minutes and gathered up the hanging plugs. There was one hung up on the ladder and when she rose to grab it there was a dull pop in her upper thigh. The pain was immense but she got ahold of the straggler and incorporated it into the chain. She smothered the plugs in glue and as careful as her agony would allow, glued around the outlet before thrusting the stack of prongs in.
She lay face down for a moment while she gathered the energy to turn over. She could feel the light on her neck and back and knew she had won. She finally rolled onto her back and took in the rays emitting from the edges of the roof. Brighter than the early morning sun could ever hope to be. She passed out thereafter and was found unconscious by Mr. Bukirkle as he went out to retrieve the morning paper.